Branstad’s political cronyism experiment failed

Branstad’s political cronyism experiment failed

Gazette Column
Let’s be very clear: This isn’t about J. Bruce Harreld. It also isn’t about the University of Iowa. Once, while describing a public relations transgression by UI officials, I wrote, “What a slice of rancid baloney.” How could I have known that one day Gov. Terry Branstad would serve an entire loaf? Branstad, who continues to keep the Iowa Judicial Branch busy sorting out the legalities of his administration’s unilateral decisions to close state-run facilities, has suddenly decided he does, in fact, have limits. I know. Coulda knocked me over with a feather. And, as much as I’d like to view the admission as the start of some sparkly new bipartisan magical mystery tour, Branstad’s proclaimed limits don’t exist. At the end of September, UI faculty members called for the…
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‘Looker’ offers peek into women’s realities, seeks empowerment

‘Looker’ offers peek into women’s realities, seeks empowerment

Gazette Column
There are certain things women seem to just know. Walk with a buddy. Park under a streetlight. Pretend it’s a compliment. Never leave a drink unattended. Keys can double as makeshift weapons. Despite not being part of school curriculum or “the talk,” such knowledge spans the boundaries of political persuasion, affluency and ethnicity. It’s passed from mother to daughter, sister to sister and friend to friend. Tonight, May 9, this phenomena and more will be on display at Public Space One in Iowa City in conjunction with a community forum. “Looker” is a collaborative project by artists Taylor Yocom and KT Hawbaker-Krohn. Representatives of several area organizations will be hand for the forum, which will explore “the crevices between feminism and art, vulnerability and power.” [caption id="attachment_1134" align="alignleft" width="350"] A…
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Should Iowa have more official state symbols?

Should Iowa have more official state symbols?

Gazette Column
National average is 22; Hawkeye State has six Tennessee’s failed attempt to codify the Holy Bible as its official state book made me wonder about Iowa’s official items. Relative to other states, we have very few state symbols. One of the first acts of the General Assembly in 1847 was to adopt the state seal, which pictures a citizen soldier standing on a wheat field, surrounded by farm and industry implements, with the Mississippi River in the background. An eagle is overhead with a scroll of the state motto: “Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain.” The motto itself is not singularly official. It was the work of a three-member Iowa Senate committee, and has been incorporated into the official flag and seal. Fifty years later, the…
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21-only ordinances should remain local issue

21-only ordinances should remain local issue

Gazette Column
Ask people in Iowa City whether or not the 21-only ordinance is working, and the answers will be a mixed bag. Nearly five years and two ballot referendums later, the issue of whether adults under the age of 21 should be allowed in most drinking establishments after 10 p.m. remains hotly contested. Those who support the ordinance point to statistics comparing the three years before and after the ordinance went into effect. There were drops in the number of citations for underage people caught in possession of alcohol and arrests for driving under the influence. But there also has been a significant increase in disorderly house citations, which skeptics hold as evidence that the root problem (underage drinking) still is thriving behind closed doors. Medical calls related to heavy alcohol consumption have…
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Let Mason departure herald new age of messy

Let Mason departure herald new age of messy

Gazette Column
The People’s Republic of Johnson County is a messy place, often overrun with public meetings and task force investigations. Everyone, it seems, wants a voice. Because of this, Johnson County and many of its subdivisions — the Iowa City Community School District, city governments and subcommittees — receive a lot of public and media attention, not all of it positive. There is no shortage of people, including me, who are willing to dig through the messy remnants and eek out an opinion on what should have been — the vast majority of such wisdom resting on the perch of hindsight. And while there is and should be a place for those who look behind, hopefully wrapping and presenting past experiences for the benefit of others, we should always be grateful…
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Sally Mason refills DI’s dance card

Sally Mason refills DI’s dance card

Gazette Column
Don’t forget to enjoy the dance. That’s the advice my first newspaper editor offered nearly every time I left to do an interview. A good-natured cynic with an internal scale for fairness, I’m convinced Rudy embodied most stereotypes surrounding newspaper guys. His clothes were rarely free of wrinkles, not that he noticed or cared. He could remember the name of the old city manager’s brother’s cousin’s side business, but couldn’t find his keys. The top of his desk was the inspiration for Jenga; his bottom left drawer the keeper of whiskey and Dixie cups. And I was the green banana that soaked up his advice like sunlight. Rudy had a theory on interviews. They were, he said, a lot like dancing, with each person hoping to show off their own…
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Bringing the University of Iowa out of its fog

Bringing the University of Iowa out of its fog

Gazette Column
Sally Mason, spokesmen could benefit from sunlight Last Friday morning, as I turned the corner of Clinton and Washington streets en route to a breakfast meeting, a figure on the Pentacrest caught my eye. It was early and still foggy as I stared, my brain racing to register what it was seeing. I flipped through scenarios: a mostly white trench coat, maybe a homeless person, a lighthearted holiday sock-top with an elven point at the top. Bile rose as I moved forward, seeing the shape of a person in the ceremonial garb of white supremacists. Anger percolated. Hateful scenes, talk and writing from my past in the South flickered. A sign on a country road announcing a curfew, punishable by death, for people of color. Students teasing a new white…
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Cohabitation of roundheels and biddies

Cohabitation of roundheels and biddies

Gazette Column
Hawkeye Martini: three measures of prune juice, one of vodka, half a measure of Metamucil Clear and Natural. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of the little blue pill. Got it? Variety, they say, is the spice of life, but I can’t be the only one having a difficult time reconciling Iowa City’s reputation as a party town with its latest distinction as top small city for successful aging. Hopefully, some entrepreneurial types soon will be cashing in on new and improved adult “party pants” and nutritional vapor. As for the fifty shades of grey’s anatomy, well, that’s actually the basis of the distinction. “With a top-notch health care system, a strong economy and low unemployment, Iowa City, home to the University of…
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Point, click, preserve Iowa’s small-town history

Point, click, preserve Iowa’s small-town history

Gazette Column
Like most things that wind up being equal parts cool and addictive, Bill Whittaker says his multiyear obsession to photograph Iowa towns began as a fluke. [caption id="attachment_1843" align="alignright" width="200"] Bill Whittaker[/caption] In July 2007, he was sent to survey a spot for a new cellular tower in Colfax as part of his duties at the University of Iowa’s Office of the State Archaeologist, when a faded advertisement on the side of a brick building caught his eye. He took a handful of photos of that building and the downtown area, hoping to compare his shots with some from when the town was more prosperous. “I was puzzled that I could find no photos of downtown Colfax on file [at the State Historic Preservation Office], no newspaper clippings, no images…
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